World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT)

WOCAT training participants documenting SWC in Nepal Photo: WOCAT

Land users and soil and water conservation (SWC) specialists have a wealth of know-how related to land management, improvement of soil fertility, and protection of soil resources. Most of this valuable knowledge, however, is simply not evaluated and documented - or if it is, then it remains poorly accessible, and comparison of different types of experience is difficult.

This SWC knowledge therefore remains a local, individual resource, unavailable to others working in similar areas and seeking to accomplish similar tasks. This is one of the reasons why soil degradation persists, despite decades of efforts and high investments throughout the world.
In this context, WOCAT was founded 1992 as a global network of SWC specialists. It also emerged that there has been a heavy focus on documenting soil degradation in the past, but presentation of SWC / sustainable land management practices – which is much more complicated – had not yet been undertaken in a consistent way. WOCAT developed a standardised and comprehensive methodology for documentation and evaluation of SWC practices.

The WOCAT methodology was originally designed to focus mainly on soil erosion and fertility decline in erosion-prone areas. However, during development and application of the methodology, other land degradation types were included. Today, WOCAT also includes other aspects of the land: soil, water, vegetation and animals.

WOCAT has developed an impressive database with currently almost 500 case studies on Technologies (the activities implemented in the field) and over 200 Approaches (the enabling environment required to implement the technologies successfully), as well as geographic data.

Early 2007 WOCAT published an attractive book with a sample set of 42 technologies and 27 approaches from all over the world. This book has served as a template for various national and regional overview books (see link). Subsequently, WOCAT case studies from the on-line WOCAT database have been entered in Google Earth; the KMZ file has been posted on the Google Earth Community Forum under the Environment and Convervation category  more ...

Since its initiation there has been a shift from data collection per se to evaluation and monitoring, as well as to training and research.

ISRIC has been strongly involved in the project since the beginning and is a member of the WOCAT Management Group.

[1992 - present]